Nestled in the middle of Northeast Park located on a neighborhood block in Freeport, New York is a tiny, nondescript blue brick building behind a basketball court. This converted garage is the home of the Freeport P.A.L Boxing Gym where over 30 of Long Island's fighters currently train under the watchful eye of head coach Joe Higgins. Boxing 101 caught up with two of Higgins' stars in a recent visit to the gym that is small in size but gigantic in character. WBC Continental Americas light heavyweight champion Sean Monaghan and light middleweight amateur standout Patrick Day took time out of their busy training schedules in preparation of upcoming fights in New York. Up first in this edition of Boxing 101 is the wildly popular "Irish" Seanie Monaghan.
Monaghan is the oldest member of the gym having boxed with Higgins for almost eleven years. After a relatively late start to the sport at the age of 20, Monaghan initially trained with the coach at a previous gym in Freeport that subsequently closed. Discovering he was at risk of falling into trouble without boxing in his life, he found his way back to the gym when Higgins opened the Freeport P.A.L. Boxing Gym in September 2006 and has not missed a day since, training six days a week and following a prescribed regimen.
The work has been paying off for the 31-year old Long Beach resident who is undefeated in 16 professional fights with 10 knockouts since turning pro in May 2010. A bruising power puncher with a rock solid chin, Monaghan has been working on sharpening his technique with greater emphasis on speed, head movement and combination work as opposed to merely looking to land the devastating kill shot. Make no mistake, Monaghan still has a keen ability to score the knockout (winning two of his last three fights by stoppage) and prides himself on the various qualities that allow him to win convincingly.
"I'm happy with my knockout percentage (63%) but I know that I'm actually a much harder puncher than that reflects," said Monaghan who holds nothing back during training sessions, firing hard thumping blows to the head and body of his resilient sparring partners.
"I think one of the things that people don't understand about me is that I also have good defense. It's very hard to hit me and it's been getting better and better with every fight. I'm not an easy guy to hit with a clean shot. That's something that takes the steam out of some people when they get hit with hard shots, they swing back and the guy's not there.
"That and my conditioning and my determination, I just keep comin' and comin' and comin' and comin' and I wear guys out," Monaghan emphatically stated.
Including his appearance in the 2009 New York Golden Gloves final, Monaghan will be making his fifth appearance at Madison Square Garden when he takes on Roger Cantrell (15-2, 8 KO's) in an eight-round tune up bout on the undercard of the Orlando Salido vs Mikey Garcia WBO featherweight championship fight on January 19. Cantrell, who has not kept nearly as active as the gritty Monaghan, is a former Washington State champion whose resume includes losses to Andre Ward and Andrzej Fonfara.
As is typically the case, the legion of Monaghan hometown fans are expected to be out in full force to support the Irish American fighter. However, Madison Square Garden has not always been pro-Monaghan. The popular fighter found himself booed for the first time in his career by the heavily populated Puerto Rican crowd when he was introduced prior to fighting Santos Martinez on the Miguel Cotto – Antonio Margarito undercard in December 2011 at the famed venue. However, the unfazed Monaghan quickly won over the hostile crowd with a second round knockout of Santos, extending his popularity even further.
"We call it the 'Long Beach Army' but it's expanded now to people from all over the place," Monaghan said of his loyal following, which has spread into Puerto Rico where he was asked by three fans for his autograph during a recent visit to the country. "I've been really blessed with that. I've had a great following and it's really opened a lot of doors for me to stay busy and get on good fights."
With respect to his upcoming fight, Monaghan predicts success regardless of how it comes.
"As a boxing fan, I always want to see the fight close with a knockout so that's what I'll be going for. If it doesn't go that way, I'm just gonna' win every round convincingly and then move on with my life."
The fighter's life was disrupted recently when he was displaced from his home in Long Beach due to Hurricane Sandy last October, losing his car and going without heat in the gym. The massive inconvenience did not cause Monaghan, the father of a 20-month old son, to lose focus on his goals, however.
"This is a big year for me. I know I'm moving along quickly and I know I'm still kind of learning on the job but I've got the 16-0 in two years, I've got the WBC Continental belt, I'm #22 in the world in the WBC and I'm looking to break the top 10 this year. If they offered me a title shot right now, I'd take it, to be honest with you. I'm ready."
"I don't have anyone in particular on my hit list but I really don't have any fear of any of them," the confident Monaghan responded when asked on whom he has his eye within the 175-pound division.
Monaghan's drive and success has provided a certain level of inspiration for the younger fighters in the gym, including amateur star Patrick Day who will be making his pro debut on January 23 at BB King's in Manhattan.
"I look at Seanie and I see him knocking everyone out, getting all these impressive victories. He can go the distance or he can knock you out. It's a very motivational presence."
Higgins views both Monaghan and Day as quality representatives of the six pillars of character upon which the proud reputation of the gym has been built and continues to operate – Trustworthiness, Respect, Responsibility, Fairness, Caring and Citizenship.
"They are the two best examples of what any boxing gym can want. I tell everyone here to watch what Seanie and Patrick are doing," Higgins proudly stated. "They are hungry athletes who want it bad and are mentally strong…..Nothing is new to them, they can adjust."
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